Family island residents worried as COVID-19 infections climb

Darrinique McCoy, 22, said the confirmation of two COVID-19 cases on the Berry Islands has left residents in the small Family Island community worried.

“Everyone is worried,” she said.

McCoy added, “I know the people who have it.

“I haven’t spoken to them personally, but I know their family. One of the people who have it, I know the woman’s daughter. She said her mummy and her grammy aren’t really coping too well with it.”

Three hundred and forty-two total COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in The Bahamas since July 8, just over a week after borders reopened to international travelers.

Prior to that, the number of confirmed cases had stood at 104 for over three weeks. Bimini had been the only Family Island with reported cases.

However, in the past week, the Ministry of Health confirmed two cases in the Berry Islands, two on Cat Island, one on Great Guana Cay, three on Moore’s Island, three on Cat Cay and eight on Bimini and one on Exuma.

McCoy said she is praying for her island and is hopeful that everyone will be okay.

“I think people are still optimistic,” she said.

“I don’t think they’re panicked. We’ll pray for them. Prayer works.

“I’m optimistic about it. I don’t want anything to happen and I don’t want anyone to die.”

However, McCoy noted that the lack of adequate healthcare services in the Berry Islands is a concern for her.

“It’s expensive…to airlift,” she said.

“Everybody doesn’t have MASA (Medical Air Services Association membership), so they still have to pay that out of pocket. And then ain’t nobody working, so how are they supposed to pay that?”

When The Bahamas began to record its first cases of COVID-19 in March, the government moved quickly to shut down domestic and international travel in an effort to contain the spread.

In June, when domestic travel was allowed to resume, the pandemic appeared to be under control in the country.

However, as new cases were confirmed in large numbers in the past few weeks, many raised concerns over the vulnerability of Family Islands that lack adequate medical facilities to handle a severe outbreak of COVID.

Cat Island MP Philip Brave Davis claimed last week that over 100 contacts had been identified through contact tracing on that island.

Margaret Smith, 65, of Cat Island, said she is concerned about the possibility of more cases.

“I am concerned, and I’m concerned that there may be more cases,” she said.

“…There are people in quarantine right now, and it’s possible that there will be more, but I’m hopeful that there won’t be that many more.”

She said she is also concerned about the possibility of those who are confirmed to have COVID being ostracized.

“My concern for anybody with COVID is the tendency for others to stigmatize them,” she said.

“…You have to make sure you don’t stigmatize and victimize and punish them because they have it. It could happen to any of us. None of us set out to get COVID.”

A resident of Old Bight, Smith said the ordeal has served as a wake up call for residents.

“Right now I feel a bit resigned,” she said.

“At first, I was shocked. But we all had this kind of underlying concern that once the borders were open that it was a possibility.

“But we were also content when the borders were not open, even when there were no domestic flights. Everybody knew we didn’t have it, so, not necessarily me, but people had the tendency to let their guard down a little bit because nobody had it.

“I think even when we opened up, they still tried to have that same kind of lack of fear or concern. And so, what I’ve noticed is that now that we have the two cases, it was like a wake up call for us – mask on all the time. You can’t let your guard down at all.”

As COVID-19 cases continued to surge in The Bahamas last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis on Friday announced that inter-island travel will be suspended as of Tuesday.

Smith said she is hopeful that domestic tourism can safely resume soon, noting that it had been good economically for the Family Islands.

“It really was disappointing that things escalated to the point where [we are now],” she said.

“So, there’s that kind of a disappointment.

“And I hope that we can revisit that and start to make that more possible and exciting for the Bahamian people.”

Vincent Ellis, 68, of Bimini, said he was prepared for the possibility of more cases on the island.

“We are always concerned, but we expected that,” he said.

“We knew that more cases might have popped up as time went on. But everybody on the island is doing the best that they can. They’re heeding the warnings.”

He added, “We’re just doing everything humanly possible to beat this thing.”

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